Despite a more substantial back catalogue than some, Infinity Land being the band’s third album in three years, Biffy Clyro seem permanently perched on the precipice between ‘hotly-tipped’ and ‘well established’. Indeed when Kerrang recently dubbed them “the future of British rock”, you can imagine them rolling their eyes, wondering what exactly they have to do to make the move into British rock’s present.
From Kerrang’s accreditation we can surmise that British rock’s future will be based on taking the kind of poppy punk that people like fellow Scots Idlewild and American bands such as The Offspring and Weezer have built careers on and attempting to blend it with other, more unexpected elements.
Album opener Glitter And Trauma sets the tone – initially pretending to be some piece of Warp electronic, then embracing those jerky guitars Franz Ferdinand have recently annexed and finally hitting you with the actual song, a kind of rock/grunge/punk hybrid that people like the Foo Fighters have perfected. It’s not bad, but it feels like less than was promised.
You’re left with that feeling a lot on Infinity Land, a sense of what could have been if the band had been slightly less afraid to take songs down the more interesting and less well-travelled musical path.
It’s frustrating because they often seem really close to doing so, throwing bits of death-metal screaming (Only One Word Comes To Mind), dirgey guitars (Get Wrong) and various other less obviously commercial aspects into the mix, only to withdraw at the last minute, returning to a more predictable base when in sight of something better. The Kids From Kibble And The Fist Of Light (great title!) is a fine example – what starts really threateningly, like some black-clad behemoth knocking on your speakers with a selection of sacrificial animals and a big knife, turns out to be little more than some kid in a Blink 182 t-shirt clutching a skateboard.
Amplifying the frustration is the fact Infinity Land does contain occasions when Biffy Clyro go and make something interesting. The Atrocity is a bitter-sweet little acoustic lament, kind of Nick Drake in a Scottish brogue, The Weapons Are Concealed sounds like The Clash performing a James Bond theme and Wave Upon Wave Upon Wave couples Nirvana dynamics to a fantastically onomatopoeic chorus which relentlessly crashes down upon you.
There’s No Such Man As Crasp also deserves to be mentioned, not because it’s particularly good, but because it seems to be a tribute to The Flying Picketts who obviously do not get the respect their career deserved.
“Once again / You’ve missed the point” Biffy Clyro sing on The Kids From Kibble And The Fist Of Light (I so rarely get to say that in normal conversation I though I’d exploit the opportunity to say it again), and maybe I have, but rather than a brave new world, Infinity Land comes across as a band trying to do justice to a wide range of influences and not really succeeding. This is an album with an identity crisis.